The promise of making it easier to find your “ideal” companion by letting you add filters to hone in on specific requirements has actually had the opposite effect, diminishing your pool to the point it becomes almost impossible to find anyone!
Before online dating existed, finding a compatible fit was far less clinical; you’d meet someone in real life, and if you enjoyed their company you might decide to on another date, maybe more. You would at least talk to someone before you’d go anywhere near finding out what their pet preferences were … and you’d then use your own judgement about whether you liked them or not.
There is increasing evidence that, in face-to-face meetings, we are subconsciously picking up clues about the suitability of future partners based on a wide variety of non-verbal information.
Online dating lures us with the false promise of an “ideal” partner so much that we apply filters that ensure we never get to meet that person in the first place.
If you’ve ever created an online dating profile for yourself, you know that it only scratches the surface of what you’re like.
Unfortunately, when you’re reading the profiles of other people, it’s easy to forget that this rule applies to them, too. You know that what you’re seeing isn’t an accurate representation of them, but it doesn’t stop you from judging them on it anyway.
And, of course, the ones who are good at selling themselves generally do so by misrepresenting themselves to some extent. When you encounter one of these profiles, you haven’t met your ideal partner. You’ve just met someone who is good at telling you what you want to hear.
Nobody’s profile really represents what they’re like in real life. And as a result, you will either underestimate them – and dismiss someone who could be a good match – or else overestimate them and then be disappointed when you meet in person.
That’s right, despite all the claims made by industry leaders such as Match and eHarmony about how well their matching algorithms work, over the last 20 years the consistent finding from researchers and sociologists, most notably a large-scale 2012 study published by the Association for Psychological Science, is that matching algorithms simply do not work.
This may account for the rise of an app like Tinder, which does away with the premise of algorithms altogether and relies pretty much wholly on the ability to make a snap judgement based on looks alone. (This does of course create its own set of terrible problems, but at least Tinder isn’t promising that its algorithm is making the decisions for you, it’s up to you to make a decision based on what you see.)
While we’re on the topic of Tinder, it has been the poster child for a relatively new phenomenon over the last few years: free dating apps. These apps don’t charge fees (or do only for a very small percentage of their users), but rely on other ways to make money from their large user bases.
It’s not surprising that price-sensitive consumers have flocked to these apps, after years of experiencing predatory behavior and questionable business practices from all of the major paid dating sites.
But it unfortunately exposes them to one of the other perils of online dating: the constant suggestion that there is always something better just around the corner.
“It is, after all, a sort of digital menu full of people waiting to be chosen or disregarded. As well as the convenience factor it’s easy to get carried away with the high of instant gratification.”
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